We hear a lot about trust. When you tell your children to eat their vegetables, you say “Trust me. I know what’s good for you. You’ll like it.” You (sometimes) trust the weather forecasters when they tell you the roads will be impassible after a snow storm and that you’d best stay put. And we trust our friends to tell us if in fact that sweater looks really good on us. But, when the stakes are high, who can you trust? For example, what about trust in the field of philanthropy and charitable giving?
From our philanthropic advisory practice here, a few trust tips come to mind:
- Trust those closest to you. Sometimes bouncing an idea off a colleague, spouse, advisor or friend helps you articulate your concerns about a particular organization or gift.
- Trust your gut. Perhaps an overused phrase in so many fields, but in the case of philanthropy, try to trust your instincts. See where your passion leads you. If an idea, a vision or a compelling leader’s cause resonates with you, start there. Your individual passion can take you in the right direction, and along the way you can ask questions, verify what your initial instinct told you and be willing to take a risk in the right circumstances.
- Develop your own internal sense of what to look for to trust that the leadership of an organization will deliver on their promise to help a population in need. While this is more often an art than a science, you can ask good questions and engage directly with an organization’s staff, board or fellow donors and invest in its success.
- Like the old proverb says, trust but verify. Conduct due diligence on the organization or gift in question. Look at the numbers, the reports, the press coverage. If possible, take a visit to see the organization and talk with management. Talk to others in your community about the value provided by the organization.
- And last but not least, learn for yourself. Educate yourself about charitable giving in general, or a particular field of personal interest (education, health care, the arts or the environment). There are countless resources available for philanthropy education, from national experts in the field to your own local community resources. I have just enrolled in the second offering of the Learning By Giving’s Massive Online Open Course (“MOOC”) that begins early next month, as part of a team being organized by our client Positive Tracks. This free online course, with content that mirrors courses taught on college campuses across the country, is supplemented by guest lecturers who are prominent philanthropists. This second round of the MOOC includes a new talk by Patrick Dempsey that highlights this concept of trusting your passion in giving through his role in founding the Dempsey Center for Cancer, Hope and Healing in Lewiston, Maine. The best part about the MOOC is that it’s open to everyone. You can join as an individual, with your parents or your children, with your co-workers or classmates. Registration details are here: https://www.edx.org/course/edx/edx-gwpx-giving-purpose-1481
I trust it’s going to be a great learning experience!